Tag Archives: love

Existentialism and Romantic Love


Existentialism and Romantic Love
By Skye Cleary
Palgrave Macmillan – £63.00

Other people are a fact of life.
                                          David Cooper.

Love is a passion to be chosen and mastered, not sacrificed to.
                                          Skye Cleary.

I’d highly recommend this most excellent of books, just on the strength of its final chapter ‘Simone de Beauvoir and Loving Authentically’ alone. Reason being, there’s so much to be gleaned, so much to be inspired by, so much to go and away and think about.

And perhaps act upon.

It is because Existentialism and Romantic Love traverses the most complex and complicated of emotions we oft refer to as love – in a most self-defining manner, profoundly more reflective than an array of dreadful Hello and Cosmopolitan magazines combined – that fundamentally accounts for its validity. That it does so from an existentialist perspective which is resoundingly thought provoking throughout all of its seven chapters (Introduction and Conclusion included), propels the book in its entirety unto a literary place that is simply more commendable than commendable.

Authoress Skye Cleary already reminds us in the book’s Introduction that: ”not all mirrors can provide accurate reflections.”

Such pronouncement in itself, is enough to trigger colossal bouts of pensive persuasion amid love’s fraternity of analysis and assessment. Be it of the self. Or one’s relationship with another. As more often than not, we instinctively think we know about these things – but in truth, we don’t

In a world where capitalism and its grotesque ugly sister, advertising, have become inherently more instrumental within modern day relationships than that of love itself – which, lest it be said, absolutely isn’t tangible – it’s no surprise that mutual conflict can sometimes supersede the initial kernel of romance.

Or, dare one actually say it, love.

For want of a perhaps more definitive description, said miasmic maze of psychological undoing is coherently addressed in this book’s aforementioned final chapter: ”Beauvoir agreed with Sartre that conflict is a fundamental part of life because we clash with other freedoms. Nevertheless, embracing the conflict is a necessary part of life because transcending (pour-soi) is not easy, and giving it up means giving up existing. Transcendence is necessary to being a sovereign subject, which Beauvoir defines as actively, assertively, ambitiously, creatively, and courageously pushing oneself forward in the world, overcoming oneself, going beyond the given in life to be an agent in one’s life, and engaging in projects that one creates for oneself.”

Suffice to say, it is of vital importance to actually know and comprehend the above to begin with.

But again, due to economic demands and the smokescreen, diversionary importance of having to keep up with the myopic folly of such complete and utter bollocks as that of what other people may be wearing and driving, ”going beyond the given in life to be an agent in one’s life,” isn’t always as easy as it may sound. Reason being, such distraction as that promoted by the ideology of Hello Magazine et al, goes a long way in diluting and perhaps ultimately confusing what is truly important in life: ”Beauvoir did not mean that the need for others should be taken in the Machiavellian sense of using each other as means to ends. Rather, each individual acts in the context of society […]. The important thing for Beauvoir is acknowledging that the world is shared with other people and that one way or another individuals depend on the community for survival, self-definition, and meaning.”

”Each individual” acting ” in the context of society,” is a most potent force to be reckoned with. Perhaps one of the most important. This partially explains why so much of British society, and American society even more so, has been crumbling away in recent years.

After all, both places could all so readily be defined by what former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, once described as there being ”no such thing as society.”

As such, never has love, existentialist or otherwise, been in such short supply. All the more reason that one should truly investigate this most authentic, fascinating and quintessentially timely of books.

David Marx

Every Day, Every Hour


Every Day, Every Hour
By Natasa Dragnic
Chatto & Windus – £12.99

Where to begin writing about Every Day, Every Hour by the Croatian authoress Natasa Dragnic is anyone’s guess – including quite a few of my own.

Having initially been attracted by what is a clearly fantabulous title, and read assorted reviews – of which the Berliner Morgenpost wrote: ‘’It is rare to find such a beautiful and romantic love story so wonderfully told,’’ the Noordhollands Dagblad: ‘’A charming book about love and the impossibility thereof,’’ and La Repubblica: ‘’[…] masterfully stages the eternal conflict between the power of love and the rules of common sense’’ – I cannot begin to tell you what an utter disappointment this book is.

Having sold in over twenty-five countries, it may well be something of an international best seller; but the whole approach to the subject is so preposterously implausible, so unbelievable, that I found the book almost unreadable.

The thirteenth line on page one of the Prologue may fleetingly beguile the reader with ‘’a waterfall of memories;’’ but, when one reminds oneself that one is fundamentally reading about two children, Dora and Luka (and when I say children, I mean nigh older than toddlers), the following excerpt from page four, really is pristine hogwash of the highest calibre: ‘’… love you only you always you my whole life long you are my breath my heartbeat you are infinite in me you are the sea that I see and the fish that I catch you have lured me into my net you are my day and my night and the asphalt under my shoes and the tie around my neck and the skin on my body and the bones beneath my skin and my boat and my breakfast and my wine and my friends and my morning coffee and my paintings and my paintings and my wife in my heart and my wife my wife my wife my wife…’’AAAggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhh….

Please STOP.
Is this not a joke?
Is this not the worst piece of shoddy writing this side of Bernard Manning?
In fact, the above makes Bernard Manning sound like James Joyce; and I refer not to its lack punctuation aka Ulysses.

Unless something has been lost in translation which I very much doubt, such writing is surely, a deliberate stab at the worst kind of comedy writing, written in a very, very, long time.
And there’s me thinking Bernard Manning was bad!

In brief, a breathtakingly bad book.

David Marx

Love Lessons – Selected Poems

Love Lessons –

Selected Poems of Alda Merini

Translated by Susan Stewart

Princeton University Press – £11.95

Every now and then, poetry is capable of hitting the mark – more simply, accurately and succinctly – than anything else in the world. It can touch, heel, inspire, enquire, and what’s more, understand, during periods of extreme pain, peril and anguish; which, if we really, really think about it, is what accounts for poetry’s inexorable validity. So when something great comes along, it certainly lightens the load and brightens the day. It’s simply wonderful, and as such, ought to be embraced with both open arms and an open heart.

Such is the case with Love Lessons, the selected poems of one of Italy’s most beloved and important poets, Alda Merini. When I initially read the final four lines of ’Will I Be Alone,’ my heart nigh skipped a beat:

But until I shiver from the touch

Of your hand, since yesterday my initiation,

Every sign of life that presses me

Lies unshaped within your fixed measures.

The immense beauty and honesty of these four lines (along with many others throughout the book) triggered a thought process that ensured I had to stop. And take stock of the wealth/depth of thought, I had just read. It’s not everyday such enquiry makes one sit up and listen, and dig deep within themselves in search of an explanation. If indeed, there is one.

The same applies to ‘(As For Me, I Used To Be A Bird)’ in its entirety:

As for me, I used to be a bird

With a gentle white womb,

Someone cut my throat

Just for laughs,

I don’t know.

As for me, I used to be a great albatross

And whirled over the seas.

Someone put an end to my journey,

without any charity in the tone of it.

But even stretched out on the ground

I sing for you now

my songs of love.

I often wonder where we’d be without poetry. The mere fact that the above can even be written, bequeaths the repetition and mendacity of everyday life, with a glimmer of hope. A sort of sparkle.

Merini’s poetry takes the reader on a journey from the ancient sylvan landscapes of Greek myth, to the perplexity/urbanity of Milan’s Naviglio district. Along the way, a tragic understanding of prodigious suffering is unveiled, along with a more than vibrant appreciation of life itself. Whether they relay the haunting tales of Orpheus and Othello, or the personal histories of Sylvia Plath (among other contemporaries), Merini’s work reveals a complex and philosophical intuition of love and life – and all that one invariably discovers in between:

I’ll be an unfolding flower of consent

And then, finding a point of contact,

I’ll let in a timid conscience […]

(‘The Presence of Orpheus’).

Love Lessons: Stunning. Beautiful. Imperative.

David Marx


The Patience Stone

The Patience Stone

By Atiq Rahimi

Chatto & Windus – £12.99

The Patience Stone evolves around one woman, one man and one room, which is omnipotently fine; but it’s abundant, ideological trajectory thereof, is something of a (poignant) problem – if indeed, so it be termed.

The author of The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini, has described this book as: ‘’deceptively simple’’ and ‘’written in a spare, poetic style […] part allegory, part a tale of retribution,’’ which to a degree, it most certainly is. Yet for as simple as it is, it’s hard to know where the author Atiq Rahimi is fundamentally coming from.

Set in Afghanistan, the book essentially revolves around a young woman who simultaneously cares for – worries and sexually fantasises about – and blames her husband, who lies in a bed in a coma: ‘’At the time, I didn’t even question your absence. It seemed so normal! You were at the front. You were fighting for freedom, for Allah! And that made everything okay. It gave me hope, made me proud […].’’

It is needless to say, a book that touches on a number of inflammatory issues such as love and war, marriage and dependence, sex and Allah – absolutely not to be confused with sex with Allah – but upon conclusion, leaves the reader both confounded and confused: ‘’Your mother, with her enormous bust, coming to our place to ask for the hand of my younger sister. It wasn’t her turn to get married. It was my turn. So your mother simply said, ‘’No problem, we’ll take her instead!,’’ pointing her fleshy finger at me as I poured the tea.’’

Set within parameters, where the passage of time is habitually measured in a combination of the slow drip which keeps her husband alive, and the regular call to prayer from the streets outside; one cannot help but be feel subliminally cajoled into a wanton, literary catharsis – which looms relatively large throughout.

Reminiscent of some of the French cinema of the early sixties – which too can end abruptly and vaguely – it’s no surprise this novel was originally written in the French language in 2008.

For as Syngue Sabour, it subsequently went on to win the Goncourt Prize.

David Marx